'Inconsistent' arms a focus after first 5 games

Ryne Nelson battles command as D-backs drop opener to visiting Yankees

April 2nd, 2024

PHOENIX -- Fresh off taking three of four from the struggling Rockies in the season-opening series, the D-backs opened a three-game set with the red-hot Yankees on Monday night.

It didn’t go the way they'd hoped.

The Yankees jumped on Diamondbacks starter for five runs in the first three innings and cruised to a 5-2 win at Chase Field.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Nelson’s command was an issue
Nelson spent the offseason working on his slider after the team felt like he had become too fastball reliant during his struggles last season.

There was some reason for optimism this spring with how the pitch looked -- and while he threw some good ones, both he and manager Torey Lovullo agreed there was room for improvement.

“It felt okay, not great,” Nelson said. “It sometimes just doesn't feel like I'm really being aggressive with it, and sometimes that happens when they're not really chasing it too. So you try to make the adjustment, bring it back on to the plate and then start giving up hits with it. So it kind of just ... builds off of each other.”

But of bigger concern for Nelson was that his fastball command was not great, causing him to fall behind hitters. That’s a recipe for disaster when facing a team with hitters like Juan Soto and Aaron Judge.

Nelson competed with Tommy Henry for the fifth spot in the starting rotation this spring, but both ended up making the team when left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez went down with a left lat strain.

Rodriguez could return in the next few weeks and Jordan Montgomery, who was signed just before Opening Day, is expected to join the rotation in a little more than two weeks.

“Inconsistent,” Lovullo said of the first turn through the rotation. “Real good in places and real bad in other places. We're trying to figure out how to make these players go out there and get better the next time. That's my responsibility. That's the coach's responsibility. We're not going to complain about it. We're just going to coach them up and do the best we can, because these are the five guys that are here and that's what we got. And we're gonna make it work.”

Lovullo has a new play to work on next spring
Nothing drives Arizona's manager crazier than watching his team play sloppy defense, and one sequence in the third inning was something that he doesn't like to see.

With runners on first and third, Austin Wells hit a fly ball to left. caught the ball and came up firing to the plate. The throw was a little offline and third baseman tried to cut the ball off, but it ticked off his glove and sailed to the backstop.

Nelson was backing up the play and retrieved the ball and fired toward third to try and get the runner from first advancing, but his throw went into left field and the Yankees ended up scoring a pair of runs.

“A little bit frustrating that we didn't execute it, but it's something that I feel like we should do a better job preparing for. That might fall on me, because as that unfolded I wrote down in my notes that we're gonna practice that play next spring. You know, we put the pitchers in the right place [during the drill], but how often do they pick up a ball from the backstop and throw it to third or second base? So that's on me. We're gonna practice that play.”

The bullpen did a nice job
Nelson lasted just 2 2/3 innings and the game could have spun out of hand, but , , and shut down the Yankees the rest of the way.

By taking up those innings, those relievers helped Lovullo stay away from his backend bullpen guys so they will be fresh for the next couple of games.

“They were fantastic,” Lovullo said.